6 ways journalists can use press releases effectively – Poynter


When Steve Penn announced earlier this month that he’s suing the Kansas City Star[1], the news sparked an interesting discussion about journalists’ use of press releases and whether it’s OK to use them verbatim, without attribution.

Penn was fired from the Star[2] last July after editors found that he had lifted material from press releases several times dating back to 2008. Penn says in his complaint that “the widespread practice in journalism is to treat such releases as having been voluntarily released by their authors into the flow of news with the intention that the release will be reprinted or republished, and preferably with no or minimal editing.”

But is it?

In an informal poll[3], we asked whether it’s OK for journalists to use press releases in their stories. Of more than 1,300 respondents, 20 percent said it’s OK to use them without attribution, and only 3 percent called this practice “plagiarism.” The majority said it’s fine to use press releases in stories if they’re attributed. (The Public Relations Society of America says using a press release without attribution isn’t plagiarism[4].)

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